The Hundredth Meridian

Dia de los Muertos

Fall had always been Héctor Villa’s least-favorite season.  This year, as the days shortened and his cousin’s stayover in his home lengthened inexorably, he felt his substance as a householder drain away in exact proportion to the diminishing quantity of the pale indirect light.  Four days after the shortest day of the year comes Christmas; already, AveMaría had her credit cards out, and Juana was promising to pay her share of the debt as soon as the local economy picked up enough to allow Eufemio to find a job.

Though born to a family of paisanos, Héctor had never before lived in a colonia, and he found it difficult to adjust to the experience now.  True, by comparison with the Juárez colonias visible from Interstate 10 in the neighborhood of the ARCO plant in El Paso, his home in Belen was a palace.  Unfortunately, it was also crowded to bursting, unlike the seemingly deserted barrios across the brown trickle of the Rio Grande, at whose empty and precipitous dirt streets Héctor gazed wistfully each time he made the trip to the border, though formerly he had found Ciudad Juárez dirty, distasteful, and depressing.  Like it or not, he’d be visiting the place again at the beginning of November for Dia de los Muertos—the Day of the Dead, Juana Villa’s favorite holiday.  Héctor expected...

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